Model stories written by young professionals/students.



The Divided Cafeteria



I travel to the zoo almost every summer with my family. I enjoy watching the animals in their almost natural habitats. I take mental notes of their interactions with one another and whether or not they even notice my presence. At the zoo, it is natural for visitors to observe and study the animals. However, when one is studying people it provides a very different experience. Recently, I observed a hospital cafeteria. Observing the cafeteria, doctor-patient interactions, and speaking with family members of patients gave me insight into the medical experience

The cafeteria was not particularly busy throughout my observations. I purposely planned it that way.  It would be easier to make observations when there was not a great deal of hustle and bustle. At first, I focused my attention on the layout and atmosphere of the cafeteria. Throughout my first observation, there were very few people in the cafeteria compared to the normal amount. I arrived at the cafeteria at 6:00 am, and it does not open for business until 6:30 am. There were workers preparing for the breakfast rush, and what appeared to be patient family members passing time or waiting for food. My second observation took place in between lunch and dinner. There were a lot more people in the cafeteria during this observation. The cafeteria layout was spacious, and there were a lot of tables for people to sit.

There were two different types of people present in the hospital cafeteria. First, there were patients and their families. You could distinguish them because most appeared in normal street clothes and some were in hospital gowns. The second type of person was the medical professional. There were nurses in scrubs, doctors in white coats, and administration in suits and ties. The two groups were easy to recognize. The two groups of people also almost solely interacted within their groups. There were tables of families, and different families were seated in proximity to other families. On the other hand, doctors and nurses were seated together in close proximity. As David Rothman argued, the doctor-patient relationship is almost nonexistent in today’s medical culture (Rothman). At no point did I observe the two different groups interacting. This could be due to the fast pace lifestyle of physicians (Rothman). Everyone seemed to be in a hurry.

My greatest observations were about short conversations I had with different family members. My first interaction was with a middle aged woman whose mother recently suffered from a stroke. The woman was very concerned with the doctor’s comments about her mother’s cognitive state, but she was also concerned that she would not how to care for her mother once she was discharged. Overall, she was very pleased with the care her mother was receiving. However, she felt the doctors were concerned with her mother at this moment in time but not long-term. The second individual I spoke with was a first time father whose wife was in surgery. There were complications during birth, and his wife was rushed into emergency surgery. The man was in a great deal of distress. The birth was unsuspected, so no other family had arrived at the hospital yet. He felt optimistic about the care his wife was receiving, and said his son was in the NICU. The man appeared helpless. He did not know what he could do, and what he should be doing. He did not talk long because he was too nervous and concerned to sit still for a long period of time.

My observations of the hospital cafeteria has led me to conclude that the medical care system is divided. Physically divided because individuals at the hospital for work were not interacting with the people there for care. Also, the medical field appeared to be divided as far as communication between the two groups once talking to the family members of a couple patients in the hospital. The patients’ families felt helpless. They expressed this was due to the fact that the doctors were not communicating to them. The daughter did not understand what the doctors meant about her mother’s cognitive state and about long-term prognoses. The husband was frustrated that he knew nothing that was happening to his wife. Although both were impressed with the quality of the medicine, they were concerned because they felt like they had no real knowledge of what was occurring. Prior to close observation, I would not have assumed the medical field was as divided as it is. Observations of the interactions of the people in the cafeteria has provided great insight into the atmosphere and attitudes of those impacted by medicine.

— RS Potter

Works Cited

Rothman, David J. Chapter 7, “The Doctor as Stranger.” In Strangers at the Bedside: A History of How Law and Bioethics Transformed Medical Decision Making. Basic Books, 1991.